In a must-win situation to keep himself in contention for top honours, Harikrishna gave a pleasing display of attacking chess and scored a chanceless victory over countrymate Rout, who anyway celebrated her maiden Grandmaster norm.

Nakamura was held to a draw by Axel Bachmann of Paraguay at the top of the table and the American stays in the lead on eight points out of a possible nine in the £175,000-prize festival.

David Howell of England defeated Daniel Naroditsky of the United States to emerge as the lone player on 7.5 points and Harikrishna shares the third spot with women’s world champion Yifan Hou of China, Nikita Vituigov of Russia and Bachmann who all have seven points each with just one round remaining.

The stage is set for what could be an exciting finale as Harikrishna meets Nakamura while Yifan will take on Howell in the last round.

Harikrishna had his task cut out against Rout and he showed little mercy with white pieces. After a quiet Queen pawn opening Harikrishna launched a king-side attack and his rooks did the damage. The game lasted a mere 24 moves.

Rout, however, had reason to be pleased despite the loss as she completed her maiden Grandmaster norm in the process. A winner of an individual gold in Chess Olympiad in 2014, Rout seems to be growing from strength to strength and the performance here will also take her among the top 50 in the world women’s ranking.

Among other Indians in the fray, only B. Adhiban is in with a chance for a top finish after he played out an easy draw with highly regarded Peter Svidler of Russia. The Indian started with the queen pawn and it was a Grunfeld defence by Svidler in which the peace was signed in just 22 moves.

Adhiban next meets Ivan Cheparinov of Bulgaria and a victory can still put him among top ten finishers.

Yifan played the game of the day and is now set to break the 26-year-old record held by Judit Polgar of Hungary as the highest ever rated woman player. With her performance close to 2800 ELO here, the Chinese girl is also closing in on the 2700 ELO rating mark.

Against Rapport, Yifan cashed in with a tactical stroke in the middle game that fetched her a piece as well as the game.

Indian Grandmasters Surya Shekhar Ganguly, MR Venkatesh and MR Lalith Babu went out of contention.

Ganguly played out a draw against Maxim Rodshtein of Israel while Babu and Venkatesh met their nemesis in Eduardo Iturrizaga of Venezuela and Mateusz Bartel of Poland respectively.

Ganguly moved to six points after another draw and Babu and Venkatesh could not add to their overnight tally of 5.5 points.

Important and Indian results after round 9 (Indians unless specified): Axel Bachmann (PAR, 7) drew with Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 8); David Howell (ENG, 7.5) beat Daniel Naroditsky (USA, 6.5); Veselin Topalov (BUL, 6.5) drew with Wei Yi (CHN, 6.5); B Adhiban (6.5) drew with Peter Svidler (RUS, 6.5); Nikita Vitiugov (RUS, 7) beat Sandro Mareco (ARG, 6); Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS, 6.5) drew with Benjamin Bok (NED, 6.5); Yangyi Yu (CHN, 6.5) drew with Dennis Wagner (GER, 6.5); P Harikrishna (7) beat Padmini Rout (6); Hou Yifan (CHN, 7) beat Richard Rapport (HUN, 6); Maxim Rodshtein (ISR, 6) drew with Surya Shekhar Ganguly (6); M R Lalith Babu (5.5) lost to Eduardo Iturrizaga (VEN, 6.5); M R Venkatesh (5.5) lost to Mateusz Bartel (POL, 6.5); D Harika (5.5) drew with Aleksandr Lenderman (USA, 5.5); M Shyam Sundar (5.5) drew with Michael Roiz (ISR, 5.5); Deep Sengupta (6) beat Irina Krush (USA, 5); V Vishnu Prasanna (5) lost to Allan Rasmussen (DEN, 6); S P Sethuraman (5.5) beat Kenny Solomon (RSA, 5); Eesha Karavade (5) drew with Renier Vazquez Igarza (ESP, 5); Nuri Kambez (SUI, 4.5) lost to Debashis Das (5.5); Alan Tate (SCO, 4.5) lost to Arghyadip Das (5.5); Neelotpal Das (5.5) beat Peter Lombaers (NED, 4.5); Soumya Swaminathan (4.5) drew with German Schneider (GER, 4.5).

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